There seems to be no limit to the number of varying interpretations of how one is to view the concept of "wealth." The term itself deserves the quotes thus employed in the previous sentence because it conjures in people's minds many different definitions. Some hear the word and immediately consider it to be something possessed by someone more fortunate. Others hear it and feel a compunction to cry, "It's not fair!" and to push for political actions that would seek to "redistribute" it "more fairly." Still others view it as a valid goal and extend all sorts of energy in pursuit of it. Yet other people think if they just demonstrate enough faith in God's provision they will be correspondingly awarded with it.
The way in which I'd like to employ the word, at least for the context of this commentary, refers to the blessings bestowed upon us by the grace of God. "Rich" or "poor," "high-born" or from the "wrong side of the tracks," we each nonetheless possess amazing wealth. Most of the readers of this blog are from the Western world, a society in which material possessions and comfort greatly exceed those found throughout the rest of the world. Further, everyone reading this is alive (though some more than others)! Our generation lives at a time far more comfortable, healthy, productive, and with more choices and possessions than any that have ever previously walked the earth. Kings from just a few short generations ago did not live as well as the lower income brackets do today. In short, we are the wealthiest now as compared to the rest of the planet and the wealthiest as compared to the rest of history.
I know, I know. Unemployment is rampant. Inflation is high. Times are tough. People are struggling. I understand how crushing financial pressure can be. I am not minimizing these facts, but am instead merely seeking to put them into perspective. In the grander scheme of our lives, in terms of the truly important things regarding our existence, and in the context of an eternal God and His plan for our salvation in His kingdom, money and what most people consider to be "wealth" are truly not that big of a deal. What IS a big deal is how we THINK about money and wealth, and even more importantly, how we FEEL and ACT toward it. As the Bible says, "For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21) So it matters what we "treasure." It matters what we focus upon. It matters what we pursue. And it matters how we do it.
Therefore, for the purpose of starting this new year off on the right sandal, allow me to offer two questions:
1. Where did you get the blessings you already have?
2. What are you doing with them?
Many people will resist the idea that they even have blessings at all, instead focusing upon their problems. They are so busy worrying about their obstacles they miss their opportunities. Next, even those who DO recognize some amount of blessing in their lives often are not thankful enough for them. Much worse, however, is the group that thinks themselves fully self-sufficient and responsible for every accomplishment and reward in their lives. They give themselves all the credit for the good times and thereby run into trouble when they experience the bad times. This results in the need to blame someone external to themselves, and from there, well, that would be an article long enough to give War and Peace a run for it's longevity record.
The second question digs deeper, but it hangs mightily upon the first one. If we are convinced that we are the sole source of our gains, then we will be selfish in their use. James 5:5 says, "Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth . . . ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter." This speaks to those who misunderstand the source of their blessings and therefore misappropriate the recipients of them. Instead of using them to serve God and others in His name, this group of people use their blessings to serve themselves, piling comfort upon luxury, fattening themselves like hogs awaiting the day of slaughter. The gift therefore is returned to the source. If we ignore or misunderstand the source of our blessings, we will return them to the wrong place. But gaining a clear picture that our blessings are from God will inspire a feeling of thankfulness and outreach within us that leads to good works toward others.
So don't rush by these questions. Think deeply about them. Make sure you answer them in a way you can stand upon throughout eternity. It's already 2011. Your days are numbered, and that number is less and less all the time. Consider these questions well to avoid the ultimate failure: the wasting of your life.